A group encouraging retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson to run for
president raised $2.4 million in the first three months of this
year, more than the group backing Hillary Clinton or those
affiliated with Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and other potential
candidates, according to filings with the Federal Election
Carson, 62, has emerged as a prominent African-American conservative
commentator. He appears regularly on Fox News and writes a weekly
column for the conservative Washington Times newspaper.
Carson's spokesman says he is not interested in running for
president and he is not affiliated with the National Draft Ben
Carson for President Committee.
The money is a sign that conservative voters are looking beyond the
usual political suspects for a presidential candidate, the head of
the Ben Carson committee said.
"My gut tells me that the American people are looking for a citizen
statesman, for a non-politician," said John Philip Sousa IV, a
descendant of the "Stars and Stripes Forever" composer who serves as
the group's chairman.
The first doctor to successfully separate twins conjoined at the
head, Carson developed a conservative following last year after he
advocated a flat tax, private medical savings accounts and other
conservative policies at a National Prayer Breakfast speech that was
attended by President Barack Obama.
On his website, realbencarson.com, he has posted a video that
explains "the first thing I'd do if I were ever president."
Armstrong Williams, who works as Carson's business manager, said the
video did not indicate that Carson was considering a presidential
run. "Many of us talk about what we would do if we were president,"
"There is no interest in running for president," Williams said. "If
the Lord speaks to him and says to him to run, then that's a
different story. But I don't know a lot of people in the world who
the Lord has spoken to directly."
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Though the Draft Ben Carson committee has raised $3.9 million since
it was set up last year, it has spent money just as steadily. At the
end of March, the committee had $228,000 in the bank and carried
$515,000 in debt, according to a filing with the Federal Election
Much of that money has gone to direct-mailing and fundraising
groups, including one affiliated with the group's treasurer. The
committee has also paid for ads on conservative radio shows and a
Other political committees are spending heavily as well. Ready for
Hillary, a group laying the groundwork for a potential presidential
run by Hillary Clinton, has spent $4.9 million of the $5.7 million
it has raised over past two years. The committee had $857,000 in the
bank at the end of March.
Sousa said the Ben Carson committee, which has five paid staffers,
is trying to build a ready-made campaign that it could turn over to
Carson in case he decides to run.
"Without us building this and saying, 'Here are the keys to the
car,' he'd be dead in the water," Sousa said.
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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